Former director at bakery chain Twelve Cupcakes, 49-year-old Yvonne Ong Hwee Ming, was fined $20,000 earlier this week for allowing the firm to underpay its workers. Yvonne Ong, an ex-teacher, pleaded guilty to four charges under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. According to a Straits Times article, her lawyer said that “her client is a person of good character and had limited experience in human resources”.
Yvonne Ong is the sister of ex radio DJ, Daniel Ong who co-founded Twelve Cupcakes with his ex-wife, Jaime Teo. In January this year, Twelve Cupcakes was fined $119,500 for underpaying seven of its foreign employees.
Co-founders of Twelve Cupcakes, Daniel Ong and Jaime Teo, Were Fined Earlier This Year
Now, as you may recall, Daniel Ong was also fined in May for breaching employment laws when he was running the bakery chain – $65,000. As a director of the company, he did not take any steps to ensure that the employees received their fixed monthly salaries as required for a period of more than three years. In a few instances, the workers also went without their salaries for some time!
Then, his lawyer had said that Twelve Cupcakes was Daniel Ong’s first venture and he was “learning things” as a first-time director. He added that Daniel Ong “is restarting his life and fighting for his family. His previous business ventures suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulted in closures.” Daniel later wrote on his Instagram page that he had left human resource and accounting matters to others “as those were not my strengths”.
Co-founder Jaime Teo also pleaded guilty in March 2021. In an Instagram post after the verdict was out, Jaime Teo said that she had “not been aware of what was happening” with the employees’ salaries until investigations started. She claimed that she had “unfortunately signed off on many things without a second glance” and left the matters to an external agency.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss: Hold Companies Accountable for Workers’ Welfare
The Food Services industry employs a large number of low-wage workers. There is a need to hold companies accountable for workers’ wages and welfare, and this includes paying their salaries on time, and in full.
In February, Twelve Cupcakes employees voted in favour of the Union to represent them. The successful unionisation of Twelve Cupcakes, was announced by the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers Union (FDAWU) in a Facebook post. Good move. The Union is working closely with the management to improve the workers’ well-being, uplift wages and upskill the workers in preparation for the economy’s recovery.
Meanwhile, the Labour Movement is also looking into a Progressive Wage Model for the Food Services industry in its bid to provide a meaningful uplift to workers’ wages, welfare and work prospects.
*Cover image source: ST